The origin and early evolution of sex chromosomes have been hypothesized to involve the linkage of factors with antagonistic effects on male and female function. Garden asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is an ideal species to investigate this hypothesis, as the X and Y chromosomes are cytologically homomorphic and evolved from an ancestral autosome pair in association with a shift from hermaphroditism to dioecy. Mutagenesis screens paired with single-molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization directly implicate Y-specific genes that respectively suppress female (pistil) development and are necessary for male (anther) development. Comparison of contiguous X and Y chromosome assemblies shows that hemizygosity underlies the loss of recombination between the genes suppressing female organogenesis (SUPPRESSOR OF FEMALE FUNCTION) and promoting male function (TAPETAL DEVELOPMENT AND FUNCTION1 [aspTDF1]). We also experimentally demonstrate the function of aspTDF1. These findings provide direct evidence that sex chromosomes can function through linkage of two sex determination genes.
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